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Declarations Of Cardinal Marc Ouellet -
The Catholic Church Called To Do Her Examination Of Conscience

Here, kitty, kitty! Nice little Atheist kitty!
Here, kitty, kitty! Nice little Atheist kitty!

Note: The Atheist cat litter, commonly known as the Le Devoir newspaper, published on 2007-November-28 [Source] another attack against the recent declarations of Cardinal Marc Ouellet on religion in school. This time, the little kitten is Ms. Marie-Michelle Poisson, Philosophy teacher at Ahuntsic College and Vice-Priestess of the Quebecois Secular Movement [Mouvement laïque québécois]. I add the colors and the sloppy English translation.

Morality and religion are two completely different and independant things

[Green] Why does Cardinal Marc Ouellet want to maintain religious education in school?

[Red] Because he's convinced that any other moral teaching (for example, teaching Ethics that are rational, humanistic and philosophically-based) could only lead our beautiful young ones to damnation, depravation, even suicide!

[Red] That's essentially the message he recently gave to the Bouchard-Taylor Commission.

If we look at the facts, rather than the hairball on Ms. Poisson's tongue, the Cardinal requests: "that in the name of everybody's religious freedom, the State course on Ethics and religious culture be OPTIONAL" If the Cardinal had been convinced that this Course would lead to everybody's "damnation", he would have demanded its total elimination. The Cardinal also asserts: "I insist that the Bishops are not opposed to the development of this State course".

As far as I know, as we speak, only one person in Quebec demands the total elimination of this Course, for both Catholics and non-Catholics. It's me.

[Yellow] But Monsignor Ouellet was correctly reminded, by quite a few social stakeholders, that [Red] the Church [End Red] wasn't always, and still isn't a role model for the most elementary respect for human rights and that some crimes committed in the name of dogmas of the Catholic faith are simply unforgivable.

If on TV they showed a bloodthirsty terrorist who claimed to be a Buddhist or a Muslim, Ms. Poisson would explain the next day, to all her young philosophy students, that there's a difference between a religion's official teachings, and the behaviors of a person claiming to be a member of this religion.

Why then make an exception for the Catholic Church? The Church has always taught that Popes, Bishops and Priests could go to Hell just like you and me. Moreover, the Church is so aware that Her members are sinners, that She has a special Sacrament for Catholics who behave in an immoral way! (Confession. By the way, to receive absolution, you must repent for your sins, promise to never start over, and compensate for the harm you've done.)

Anybody can commit any crime, in the name of any belief of any religion. And what does this prove? Nothing. To accuse the Catholic Church, you have to show that such a crime is caused by such a dogma of Faith. I therefore throw down a challenge to Ms. Poisson:

I'll give you 1000$ if you show me one crime (whether it's committed by a Pope, or a Bishop, or a Priest) which isn't explicitly condemned by the Catholic Church's official teachings. Or again, find me an official teaching of the Catholic Church that encourages some vice or crime.

[Yellow] Before such a paradox, how can Marc Ouellet justify upholding moral and Catholic teaching in school, otherwise than by trying to hurriedly compose, using many sophisms and non-truths, a facade for the Roman Catholic Church which is respectful of the person?

Of course, if the official teachings of the Church are bad, you're right. But if that's the case, take up my challenge.

[Red] Didn't the Church have an immoral behavior toward natives, women, homosexuals and lesbians, orphans and children born out of wedlock, divorced persons, unmarried mothers, and victims of pedophile priests?

Obviously, you know how to spread calumnies. But are you able to take up my challenge?

[Green] In his strange letter, Mr. Ouellet recognizes it unequivocally by asking "forgiveness for all this evil!". Has the Church rectified her positions toward these persons? No, and she doesn't seem disposed to do it. Therefore, the Cathlic Church is ill-positioned to give morality lessons to anyone.

Here, I must defend Ms. Poisson. This letter by the Cardinal oozes a scandalous ambiguity, and the Cardinal caused a lot of harm by trying, once again, to placate Christ and Satan at the same time. If the teachings of the Church are bad, since the Church has no intention of changing them, then any attempt to "ask forgiveness for this evil" is cruelly hypocritical and dishonest.

Except the official teachings of the Catholic Church are holy and infallible. If you don't agree, take up my challenge.

Religion doesn't equal morality

[Yellow] It has therefore been proved that religion is never a guarantee of morality. And what has just been said of [Red] the Catholic religion [End Red] could be said for all religions.

Wow! Proofs run really fast, when they aren't dragged down by the heavy luggage of facts and logic!

More seriously, you haven't proved anything concerning the Catholic religion. Otherwise, take up my challenge. Moreover, even the Bible clearly says that the Christian religion isn't a guarantee of morality. According to the Bible, the most hateful and bloodthirsty creatures in the universe (demons) have faith! [Jc 2:19]

[Green] Obedience to some religious precepts or the perpetuation of ancestral traditions having a sacred dimension are often in conflict with the most elementary moral duties.

Amen! On this, the Catholic Church and Ms. Poisson perfectly agree.

[Yellow] Morality and religion are two completely different and independant things. If [Red] sometimes [End Red] they coincide, it's simply because everywhere there are honest and courageous persons, believers or agnostics, who place above all respect for human rights, and who prove it in their daily actions. It's this humanistic universal morality transcending [Red] all [End Red] religions which we must now teach to all our children with no exceptions in Quebec's primary and secondary schools.

Here, Ms. Poisson is quite near the truth.

Imagine you're a sociologist, and that you're scientifically studying religions. The subject of your Ph.D. thesis is: "The Coincidence or Non-Coincidence of religions with the universal humanistic morality". How are you going to approach this topic?

First, you'll define your terms. What is "the religion", or more correctly, what are the religions? Then, what is the "universal humanistic morality"?

Second, you will, for each religion, extract the subset of its moral teachings. Let's take a silly example: the "Gaar-Teqs" religion. If the "sacred" scriptures of the Gaar-Teqs say we have to prostrate ourselves five times a day in the direction of the MEC, that's a liturgical teaching, which doesn't concern us here. But if the Gaar-Teqs religion says we mustn't dump trash on forest trails, then that's a moral teaching. In this case, it's even a good teaching, which in fact coincides with the "universal humanistic morality".

Third, you have to compare point by point each precept of the "universal humanistic morality", with each corresponding precept of each religion's subset of moral teachings. (Ouch! A truly monastic task!)

If you do your scientific work correctly, you'll be able to observe serveral things:

(1) Many religions officially teach completely immoral precepts.

(2) Atheism, strictly speaking, is incompatible with morality.

(3) The Catholic religion recognizes the existence of a "universal humanistic morality" (i.e. Natural Law, knowable by all men, even those who don't have Faith). Moreover, it integrates this whole morality into its official teachings.

(4) Not only does the Catholic religion integrate all of this natural morality, but on top of that only it explains the serious inherent shortcomings of natural morality, and then heals them.

[Yellow] It's more than time to operate in minds a radical and salutary divorce between ethics and religion,

Scientifically, we can't put in the same basket of "THE" religion, religions who teach radically immoral precepts, and Catholicism which integrally teaches natural morality, and better.

[Yellow] just as it was once and for all necessary to separate science and religion.

It depends what religion you're talking about.

[Green] To succeed, we'll first have to define and refute all the extremely accommodating prejudices that automatically grant a faultless moral uprightness to religious persons.

As quoted here above, the Bible itself doesn't grant a "faultless moral uprightness to religious persons" [Jc 2:19].

[Red] Moreover we'll have to condemn all baseless slander expressed against Agnostics and Atheists.

Speaking of calumnies, you filled up a whole kitty litter here above. Will you take up my challenge? Then, concerning the incompatibility of Atheism with morality, I'm ready. Come and debate, or go lick your atheistic fur in a corner, in silence.

[Green] and no longer tolerate in public debates the sophisms and counter-truths used desperately by religious persons of all confessions as they try to maintain an anachronistic moral authority.

I absolutely agree with the fight against sophisms and counter-truths. So, will you take up my challenge?

And old failing curricula

[Red] The old Catholic moral curricula had many distortions and omissions bordering on intellectual dishonesty.

Take up my challenge.

[Green] In this program, each discussed theme had to be illustrated by numerous references to religious texts. For example, "relations with others" or "relationship to consumption" could be illustrated with stories taken from the Old and the New Testament, life stories of yesterday's and today's Catholics, a few Catholic rites and a few stories of religious diversity.

[Yellow] But never, as examples, were proposed the significant and even decisive contributions of philosophers.

First, you'd need to say exactly which course you're talking about. It's quite possible that you've read a bad pseudo-catechesis course. I myself lost Faith when I was about 12 because of such a course. But the official teachings of the Catholic Church certainly don't look down on the important role of Philosophy, and many canonized saints were philosophers (Saint Justin Martyr, Saint Albert the Great, Saint Thomas Aquinas, etc.)

[Green] Thus, the example of "Martin Luther King, a man of faith and promoter of a change of mentality concerning the relations between Whites and Blacks" was proposed.

[Yellow] But it is of public notoriety that the political committment of Martin Luther King was first and foremost inspired by Henry D. Thoreau, American philosopher, theorist of civil disobedience and non-violence, concepts which were determinant in the success of the anti-segregationist fight in the United States.

Ouch! Quite an assertion! Even though I'm a US citizen, it has been a long time since I've read some works of Martin Luther King. As far as I know, he himself would never have dared assert that his action was based on anything other than our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the Rock of Ages!

We could add another part to our debate. Take up my challenge!

[Green] In the same way, the "relationship to consumption" didn't elicit any mention of the Stoics, these philosophers of the Greek Antiquity,

[Yellow] who nevertheless established the philosophical bases for a lifestyle based on moderation, a notion which was then integrated into the Christian and Muslim doctrines.

Ouch! A rather far-fetched assertion! Take up my challenge, and we'll also go see what really taught Stoic morality.

[Yellow] It goes without saying that it was totally excluded to mention the cases where, on the contrary, [Red] the Catholic Church [End Red] would have been racist (for example, the Valladolid controversy, at the origin of Black slavery in the Americas) or would have demonstrated a excessive taste for wealth and luxury (for example, the guided tour of the Roman palaces, whose wealth comes from the fruits of one form or another of slavery).

Who is being accused? The official teachings of the Catholic Church, or the despicable sins of some members of the Clergy? Take up my challenge.

A self-sufficent Ethic

[Green] Ethics is a philosophical discipline which studies and validates the principles involves when we formulate moral judgments, rational principles which are able to orient and limit human actions.

Well, sort of, but I prefer the traditional definition.

[Yellow] Ethics, just like the natural sciences in the XVIII century, had to conquer her independance from religion.

Please define the word "religion".

[Yellow] From now on, Ethics is [Red] self-sufficient [End Red] and able to propose universal operational principles, for example human rights, the basis of our modern democratic institutions.

Please define "self-sufficient". You could be right, since natural morality isn't based on some belief. But I think you're rather claiming that Good and Evil can exist, even if God is dead.

[Yellow] The rational efforts of thinkers such as Rousseau, Kant, Tocqueville or Thoreau, among others, have contributed to establish a corpus of knowledge which can and must be taught in our schools so that our youngsters will be educated about their rights and duties as citizens.

Take up my challenge, we'll also be able to talk about the value of these philosophers.

[Green] And it's for this reason that UNESCO has made of philosophy a priority for all levels of schooling. We can find in the Paris Declaration a most relevant rationale for teaching this discipline: "[...] Philosophical education, by forming free and thoughtful minds, able to resist the various forms of propaganda, fanaticism, exclusion and intolerance, contributes to peace and prepares everybody for their responsibilities concerning the great contemporary interrogations, among others in the field of Ethics."

I too am absolutely in favor of good Philosophy!

Ethics drowned in religious culture

[Green] Unfortunately, no moral curricula produced so far by Quebec's Department of Education has a significant and relevant content in philosophical Ethics. The new ethics and religious culture course, whose implementation is planned for December 2008 is no exception.

Thank you Ms. Poisson! Finally, we perfectly agree on something!

[Green] The contents of philosophical Ethics, discussed briefly, are drowned in the contents of religious culture.

I find you too kind toward that Course. Its "content of philosophical Ethics" is rotten to the core.

[Green] The teacher must present the [Yellow] humanistic [End Yellow] Ethics content, which nevertheless constitutes the essence of the civic principles which guide our modern societies, with the same qualification as the normative religious contents, without ever giving systematic and explicit priority to philosophical Ethics when human rights and religious practices don't correspond.

[Green] It seems that the program is designed in such a way that all normative divergences are dealt with as "cultural diversities" which must be the object of a mutual tolerance implemented by the exercise of listening and dialogue. Once again, we're swimming in downright relativism, a relativism which is able to reinforce the moral prejudices of religious persons, a sirupy relativism which we hoped, wrongly, might preserve us from the political sensitivities of certain interest groups which have been and continue to be very aggressive on the issue of religious moral teaching in school.

Here also, I think we could agree (but we'd need to better define the word "humanistic").

Misleading religious culture

[Green] It's clear that Catholic parents won't be content with what appears to their eyes as a deception consisting in maintaining a certain religious content in school by naming it and defining it otherwise.

I hope you're right, and that Catholic parents will fight to defend their rights and the rights of the Church.

[Yellow] The expression "religious culture" is misleading for other reasons. It has among other effects of overdetermining the religious factor among the set of significant factors which enable a comprehension of today's real Quebec; religion, whatever people say, plays a minor role as the mark of identity and is certainly not the ultimate guide of the behavior of Quebecers who, in case of a disagreement, certainly prefer to refer to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms rather than to God.

I basically agree. The people of Quebec have, by and large, apostasized. True Catholicism has almost been wiped out.

[Green] The debate Cardinal Marc Ouellet wants to drag us into is extremely annoying and embarrassing.

I agree, but probably for other reasons than you.

[Red] insofar as he perpetuates a discourse which naively confuses Ethics and religion and which reinforces the arrogance of believers concerning morality.

Take up my challenge. The Church absolutely doesn't confuse natural morality and Faith, and the Bible itself skewers the arrogance of believers [Jc 2:19] and Pharisees [Mt 23:13-33].

[Green] The only way to cut off this sterile debate which only keeps alive the vain hopes of religious militants is to remove with no further ado the "religious culture" contents of the new programs, while beefing up and making more coherent the contents of philosophical Ethics and the skills related to "the practice of dialogue in the perspective of the living-together".

I agree with you that even from a purely philosophical point of view, this course sucks.

[Yellow] It would be extremely unfortunate if, because of the systematic and organized obstruction of a group of bitter militants opposed to only a part of the new program of Ethics and religious culture, we'd have to give up all of the contents of a program which is innovative and without a doubt valuable for everybody.

I'd agree with the assertion that natural morality is good, necessary, and "without a doubt valuable for everybody", but that's precisely not what this course offers.

Oh, by the way, will you take up my challenge?

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